January 11, 2020: Revisiting "The Power of a Positive Team"
John Gordon begins The Power of a Positive Team with a powerful insight that has led me to reevaluate how I approach relationships and leadership solving in the year since I read it. He begins the book with these words. “No one creates success alone. We all need a team to be successful. We are better together, and together we accomplish great things.” What lay beyond that was resounding echo of insights and anecdotes that support a philosophy I’ve shared with my players as a coach, but never fully bought into on an intimate level. We need each other.
As a self-driven high achiever, I realized early in life that I was going to have to go out and work for everything I wanted in life. I came from a family of modest means. We survived, but I wouldn’t say we thrived. Education was stressed as important in my family, but no one in my immediate circle had much success pursuing one past high school. Education was an opportunity to advance my status, but it quickly became the source of my biggest anxiety. I saw school, work, and life as a contact sport, and there were no teams. If I was going to be a champion, then I was going to have to be better than all the competition.
This outlook is not conducive for someone who wants to build meaningful relationships with a spouse, children, co-workers, and students. Thankfully it has waned over the years, but I still view much of my professional existence as a competition. “I was always asking myself, How can I do this better than him/her?” But what I should have been asking is, “How can we work together to make each other better?” It is definitely not the mindset to have if you are in a position of leadership, which I was, and exactly why I was reading Mr. Gordon’s book in the first place.
Working my way through the book as part of the leadership study was a refreshing change of pace for me, because at the time, I was finishing my last semester of grad school, and it broke up the doldrums of school law and administrative practice. As I prepared to present chapter nine to the rest of our campus leadership team, I realized why the book has resonated with me so much, and it forced me to consider what I wanted my legacy to be, not just as a teacher, but a husband, father, son, and man.
Gordon pointed out that a list of hallmarks in film history that were collaborative efforts a team. This was a subject that holds a special place in my heart as a movie lover and historian. And although it’s my favorite example, it’s not the only one from a long list of feats of humanity that were the product of teamwork. Events ranging from the American Revolution to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and sporting triumphs like the Houston Astros 2017 World Series Championship all meant a great deal to me as an educator, artist, fan, and historian. In many of these instances, credit goes to a select few for the success, but in reality there are a multitude of moving parts and participants that made it possible.
All of this really got the gears in my head spinning, and I came to a conclusion that I now try to consider on a daily basis. I want to be a sum positive on those around me and the universe in general. As much as I want to be my personal best, I know the world is better if I’m playing a positive role on the teams that I’m a part of. I need to ask for help, and ask others how I can be of help. I need to bring positivity to personal interactions on all levels and lead with a focus on service to the team rather than myself. I would have to spend my life trying to live up to an unattainable measure of greatness only to realize that I missed out on an opportunity to be apart of some truly special teams.